We’ve just had a few days away at Apollo Bay, originally with the intention of doing some walking, swimming and sketching.
Of course, with unerring talent, we neatly managed to coincide with a howling storm that blew up out of the Southern Ocean, which curtailed these activities somewhat.
However we did manage a walk on Moonlight Head and down to wreck beach. On a good day, at low tide, you can walk out on to a rock platform and see the remains of the Marie Gabrielle (lost November 1869) and the Fiji (lost September 1891). In the picture above you can just see some of the wreckage including the anchor of the Marie Gabrielle behind the raging sea.
When we visited it was only safe to walk to within about 100m of the wreck site but it certainly showed just how treacherous these seas could be.
Both ships were a total loss.
In the case of the Marie Gabrielle it seemed at firts that everyone survived despite being trapped on a wild rough coast in what was then very isolated and remote country
with the crew eating limpets until they were found and brought to Cape Otway light station.
However, if you expand the search into 1870, the following year, the tale turns grimmer with allegations that the crew were deserted by their captain. There also seems to be some suggestion from later news reports that some human remains were found in the area a few months later. There is some suggestion that the remains were of Maori or South Sea Islander origin and it may be that they were travelling alongside the European origin crew, either with or without the captain’s knowledge
The Fiji’s wreck was a rather less fortunate affair with several men being lost
(reports from the Age 8 September 1891 and the Evening News in Sydney both via trove.nla.gov.au)
and charges of incompetence being laid against the captain.